Student arrested for carrying pot on school bus

Published on Thu, Feb 26, 2004 by Meg Olson

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Student arrested for carrying pot on
school bus

By Meg Olson

When the Point Roberts school bus pulled up to the Peace Arch port of entry last Friday morning there were a dozen border enforcement officers waiting. They boarded the bus and looked through every backpack. At the back of the bus students reported one of the inspectors said �This is it,� and the smell of marijuana was pungent as they carried a duffel bag from the bus. They arrested a Point Roberts teenager for smuggling eight pounds of marijuana with her school books. �I think they knew it was there. They were all ready,� one student said.

The 16-year-old girl spent the weekend in jail following the February 20 arrest and was released into her parent�s custody Monday. She will be back in court March 3 to be formally arraigned on charges of possession with intent to deliver marijuana � a felony � and prosecutors don�t plan to go easy on the first-time offender.

�We do not feel the standard range sentence is appropriate for smuggling drugs across an international border,� said Whatcom County senior deputy prosecutor Tom Verge. The standard sentence for a first time offender for the crime would be zero to 30 days in county juvenile detention. However, Verge said, in cases of drug smuggling prosecutors can ask the judge for a harsher sentence, and they�ve been getting them.

�The last one received a sentence of four to eight months in juvenile prison,� Verge said, adding the teen in that case also had no prior convictions.

Verge added that young people acting as smugglers rather than couriers could also have their case transferred to adult court, facing even harsher penalties.

The recent arrest was the second time last month that young people from the small community of Point Roberts have landed in jail for drug trafficking. On February 9 at 5 a.m. two plainclothes police officers in Tsawwassen B.C., about a mile from the Point Roberts port of entry, stopped a late-model van with Ohio plates as it left a parking lot.

Smelling a strong odor of marijuana the officers searched the vehicle and found 13 pounds of marijuana, with a street value between $25,000 and $30,000, and approximately $2,000 in cash. Two Point Roberts residents were arrested � Eric Lieffering, 20, and a 17-year old male. They were charged with possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, according to Delta Police media officer Sharlene Brooks.

Verge said there is a concern about young people being drafted as �mules� by drug smugglers, seduced by the lure of what appears to be easy money. �The juvenile involved often thinks nothing�s going to happen and that�s not the case,� he said. �We intend to take a hard line on any juvenile involved in smuggling, and we hope schools, juveniles, parents and the smugglers understand that,� he said.

High school principal Dan Newell said school officials had only very recently become aware that a problem existed with marijuana on the school bus. Some parents find that hard to believe, saying they had contacted school officials as long as two years ago to ask that something be done about the problem.

The local community is organizing a town hall meeting that will be held Thursday, March 4 in the community center. It will begin at 6:30 p.m. Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo as well as school officials will be in attendance.